So, vehicles that have SmartWay certification are not only fuel-efficient vehicles, but also great cars and trucks to buy if you're concerned about emissions and want to have less of a negative impact on the environment. According to the EPA's estimates, they're better than your average gas guzzler. But what about the cream of the crop? The greenest of the green driving machines? A green so bright your eyes may become temporarily blinded?
The EPA goes a step further and has created an extra classification on top of the SmartWay certification -- a category called SmartWay Elite. Any car, truck or SUV that gets the SmartWay Elite stamp of approval by the EPA is deemed a "superior environmental performer." To understand the importance of the distinction, a SmartWay certified vehicle, in comparison, is considered a "good environmental performer," according to the EPA.
SmartWay Elite vehicles are judged the same way all other vehicles are judged. But to be considered SmartWay Elite, the vehicle has to receive a score of 9 or better on both the greenhouse gas and air pollution scores. When the highest combined score possible for any vehicle is 20, and the lowest score necessary for Elite distinction is 18, you can be sure that SmartWay Elite certification isn't handed out to just any car with four wheels and a fuel-efficient engine.
So far, only a select few hybrids and compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles have qualified for SmartWay Elite status. But there are several SmartWay vehicle choices available, especially in states like California, Massachusetts, Maine, New York and Vermont. This is because these five states adhere to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) tailpipe emissions standards, which sets tougher emissions standards for manufacturers [source: Edmunds.com].
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